The Movement for a Socialist Alternative (MSA), Oyo State branch, expresses its sympathy with the people of Oyo State over the cases of COVID-19 and its disruptive effects on normal activities in the state, which is ranked 4th among states with active Covid-19 cases. 

The Covid-19 is one of the numerous health challenges confronting the working people in Oyo state. Several working but poor people, before the Covid-19 outbreak, had been battling various ailments presently compounded by the virus and consequent restriction of available healthcare services. Medical researches have shown that health complications and weak body immune system are major factors leading to severe cases. Meanwhile, a strong immune system is a product of proper nutrition while the struggling masses find it difficult to feed nutritiously due to capitalist-induced poverty and inequality. Despite the grandstanding of politicians, of the Oyo government particularly, there is still no conscious effort to improve the quality of healthcare and living standards of the people, which are both important to lowering the rate of fatalities in Covid-19 patients. 

We believe that the revitalization of the health sector should be an immediate task of the government extending beyond the current case of COVID-19. The Oyo State government should go beyond the propaganda of improving the sector and conduct a total overhauling of the state public health sector; with adequate funding to improve medical facilities, welfare conditions of medical doctors and nurses, provision of Personal Protective Equipments, (PPEs) while repositioning pharmaceutical services in state-owned hospitals to be made affordable for the working but poor people.

The Coronavirus has compounded the woes confronting the mass of working people; businesses have collapsed, and the health conditions of poor people have been imperiled. This has also increased the number of unemployed youths in the state, hence raising the level of crimes and violence in Oyo State. It is now evident that the principle of organizing society to reward contractors and cronies of politicians, at the expense of a quality living standard for the people, is no longer rational. The Covid-19 pandemic has affirmed to us that the profit-first mentality of Nigerian politicians and businessmen can no longer advance our survival; hence the need for the working people to fight for their democratic rights to plan society according to their needs. 

The MSA, Oyo State branch, in the same vein expresses solidarity for the Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT), which has opposed the reopening of schools following the Federal Government order of gradual reopening of schools. For us in the MSA, we support completely the position taken by the NUT that reopening schools, as they were before the pandemic, will be putting the lives of teachers, students, and their families in avoidable health risks. It is unacceptable that the government, having shown no medical competence in its management of Covid-19, is prepared to experiment with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. We demand that reopening of school should be conditioned on the expansion of facilities that can ensure physical distancing, provision of PPEs for teachers, and upfront payment of hazard allowances to the teachers that will be putting their lives at risk for the ego of the political elites. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the rottenness of the Nigerian capitalist system as state governments across the board, and in alliance with their federal counterpart, have continued to place the poor and working people on the slaughter slab of the pandemic. This is evident in the inhuman situation that members of the Nigerian Medical Association are forced to work under. Personal Protective Equipment, (PPEs) have been scantily provided to doctors and nurses who are at the frontline of the Covid-19 efforts while hazard allowances remain unpaid. Resident Doctors have been forced to threaten strike actions because of these cruel developments. These are characteristics of Nigeria’s capitalist political economy, which, during the worst crisis in a century, remain unfazed about the basic elements required to repel the virus. Meanwhile, priorities continue to be granted to the funding of the outrageous budgets of political office holders and government contractors.

It is therefore on this basis that we urge the NUT, TUC, and NLC to go beyond condemning reopening of schools, which, in the face of a recalcitrant government that is more concerned about its media outlook than people’s survival, could be at best a feeble effort. The NUT and the wider labor union movement must seize the moment to sensitize their ranks and fight for demands to protect their members from the Covid-19 disease. The NMA also must identify other related workers’ unions at the frontline of this pandemic and organize their members for struggles to demand improved funding of the health sectors. No doubt, the pandemic has brought to the front-burner the urgent need for trade and labor unions to put together a charter of demands and place it on the neck of the government, with a mass movement and protests that are capable of forcing the government to yield to those demands.

It is now clear that Oyo workers must challenge the Makinde government to open up his government for public scrutiny of the state’s expenditures spent over the COVID-19 pandemic in Oyo state. This is based on the current disagreement between the state government and the University College Hospital, Ibadan over money allotted for the Covid-19 intervention. For about a month, the Makinde- led government and the University College Hospital have been debating over the 180 Million Naira allegedly disbursed for the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. This confusion, and implied fraud, is coming as a result of the contract system prevalent under capitalism, where politicians award contracts to their acolytes who later give returns or commissions, while the works done often do not reflect the money expended on it. This kind of system kills the State’s Public Works department and put hundreds of workers into the perpetual crises of unemployment or slave labor. The MSA organizes for the abolition of the corrupt contract system, and demand for an equipped and staffed public works department to execute government’s projects. We also call for a democratic workers’ control of such departments to prevent looting by political office-holders at their heads.

The MSA, therefore, call on all rank and file workers in Oyo state, who are dissatisfied with the current capitalist crises of poverty and unemployment amidst abundance to join us in the building of a radical alternative capable of wrestling political power from the ruling elites and electing a government that would place the administration of state’s resources under the democratic control and planning of the working people and masses. To join us call: 07066249160, 07052321998

Olamide Adabale

Spokesperson, MSA Oyo State